Photo: How to create a butterfly garden

Did you know butterflies are active from about 10 AM to 3 PM? (Credit: Lindsay Coulter)

All gardens are not created equal. Just ask any butterfly.

Creation and restoration of butterfly habitat offsets those destroyed by development, roadside mowing or wetland drainage. (Gardening pesticide-free helps, too.)

Whether you have a small plot in the big city or a few acres, transform your yard into a butterfly garden!

What you'll need to attract butterflies

Choose native flowers and shrubs. Butterflies need nectar plants for food and host plants to lay their eggs. Check out this index of larval food plants (listed alphabetically)!

  • Tiger swallowtails choose nectar plants like lilacs or bee balm; nearby willow, alder, or apple trees can host larva
  • Painted ladies choose nectar plants like aster, cosmos or zinnia; host plants include thistle, mallow or hollyhock
  • Monarchs choose nectar plants like, black-eyed Susan, Canada goldenrod, wild bergamot and common yarrow; host plants include the milkweed family. (There are four most common species of milkweed in Canada — swamp (aka rose) , poke, butterfly (aka orange), showy and common. Choose the species that is native to your area.)

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To attract butterflies like the red admiral, tiger swallowtail and mourning cloak, you can also set up a nectar feeder using a solution of one part sugar to 18 parts water.

Did you know?

  • Sunny days are best for butterfly watching
  • Some individual butterflies live only a week, but the flight season for a species may be more than a month — and the migrating monarch "super generation" may live for several months
  • In B.C., butterfly season runs from March through October
  • Females are slightly larger than males — because she carries the eggs!
  • Butterflies and hummingbirds share many nectar flowers, so efforts to lure one may have the bonus of attracting both

How to attract hummingbirds

Is your yard or garden red enough? Hummingbirds are guided by their eyes! And many red-coloured flowers provide good sources of nectar.

Try perennials like red or purple hollyhock, pink or red coral bells, bee balm, summer phlox or sage. Annuals that attract hummingbirds include begonias, cosmos, geranium and petunias. And don't forget shrubs and vines like hibiscus, honeysuckle and flowering currant. These plants prefer full sun exposure with shelter from strong winds.

Don't see much action the first season? Enjoy the flowers and wait a year.

How will you create habitat for butterflies or hummingbirds where you live?

Lindsay Coulter, a fellow Queen of Green

April 8, 2014

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Jan 31, 2015
10:36 PM

great article but I was distracted… that a Dr. David Suzuki garden gnome?

Jun 25, 2014
1:23 PM

I have my own initiative going in order to attract more birds and butterflies, but today after years without issue someone decided to phone the city — and so I received a visit from a municipal law enforcement officer. The issue was a few square metres of tall grass and yarrow, which he insisted are “weeds”. For this I was talked down as though I was a criminal…

May 07, 2014
6:50 AM

Where can I get hardy milkweed seed?

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